Daily archives: December 6th, 2009

In Support of Obama’s ‘Surge’ in Afghanistan

The New York Times posted an extensive article on the process through which President Obama arrived at his decision to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. Obama was "haunted by the human toll," his advisers say, and wrestled with the economic toll. One estimate claimed that an expanded presence would cost $1 trillion over 10 years. The "fiscally conservative" far right doesn’t bat an eye at these costs. Obama was concerned.

From The New York Times:

Now as his top military adviser ran through a slide show of options, Mr. Obama expressed frustration. He held up a chart showing how reinforcements would flow into Afghanistan over 18 months and eventually begin to pull out, a bell curve that meant American forces would be there for years to come.

“I want this pushed to the left,” he told advisers, pointing to the bell curve. In other words, the troops should be in sooner, then out sooner.

When the history of the Obama presidency is written, that day with the chart may prove to be a turning point, the moment a young commander in chief set in motion a high-stakes gamble to turn around a losing war. By moving the bell curve to the left, Mr. Obama decided to send 30,000 troops mostly in the next six months and then begin pulling them out a year after that, betting that a quick jolt of extra forces could knock the enemy back on its heels enough for the Afghans to take over the fight.

The three-month review that led to the escalate-then-exit strategy is a case study in decision making in the Obama White House — intense, methodical, rigorous, earnest and at times deeply frustrating for nearly all involved. It was a virtual seminar in Afghanistan and Pakistan, led by a president described by one participant as something “between a college professor and a gentle cross-examiner.”

Mr. Obama peppered advisers with questions and showed an insatiable demand for information, taxing analysts who prepared three dozen intelligence reports for him and Pentagon staff members who churned out thousands of pages of documents.

We never heard President George W. Bush described as "intense, methodical, rigorous, earnest," although he may have been "deeply frustrating for nearly all involved." Obama was "deeply frustrating" for different reasons.

“I don’t want to be going to Walter Reed for another eight years,” he told his advisers.

Read the NYTimes article. Any who thought Obama was not listening to his generals should take heed. He was taking them back to boot camp, pushing and challenging them more than they had been pushed or challenged before. As Commander-in-Chief, he alone makes the policy decisions in war. The generals meet the professor.

I’m with the professor and the generals.

No one gets everything they want in a time of war.

Creating Jobs in Liberia with Palm Oil

From AllAfrica.com:

The Liberian government has announced that it is in the final stages of securing a U.S. $1.6 billion Indonesian investment in palm oil production which is expected to create 35,000 jobs.

Richard Tolbert, chairman of the country’s National Investment Commission, told AllAfrica in an interview that the investment, in south-eastern Liberia, will give a major boost to the country’s post-conflict economy.

“The government has about 33,000 persons on its payroll,” he said. “Here we have one company that will provide jobs for about 35,000 persons. These jobs, I believe, will create livelihoods for about 300,000 to 400,000 people.”

The investment deal is with Golden VerOleum, a company headquartered in Indonesia which is a subsidiary of Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), one of the world’s leaders in palm oil production.

Tolbert said when the agreement is concluded, Golden VerOleum will need more than 200,000 hectares for an oil palm plantation in the south-east, a region that is among the country’s poorest. He said in addition to creating jobs and helping to decentralize Liberia’s economy, the company has budgeted about $400 million for palm oil mills and eventually for refineries.

This is a promising move for a nation struggling to rebuild its economy. The key, of course, is that the industry grow in a sustainable manner.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ‘s administration has attracted a number of big investments from multinational companies since her election in 2005, the article says. Arcelor Mittal, one of the world’s largest steel companies, began operations in Liberia in 2007 following a re-negotiation of the terms of an earlier agreement, the article says.

More on the Liberian economy:

Liberia’s economy was virtually shattered by the civil war that ended in 2003. An estimated 80 percent of Liberians were unemployed and the 2005 national budget totaled only $80 million. Taxes on the revenue generated by investments has helped the government to triple its national budget in just a few years, Tolbert said in the interview.

In her book, This Child Will Be Great, President Johnson Sirleaf leaves the door open for a second term, of course. In the aftermath of civil war, however, she says her greater goal is a peaceful, democratic transition to whoever succeeds her as president.

I hope she runs again.

Quinn vs. Hynes: I’m Leaning Quinn

Carol Marin Saturday column in the Chicago Sun-Times compares and contrasts the personas and personalities of Pat Quinn and Dan Hynes.

Characterizing them as Walter Matthau (Quinn) vs. Jack Lemmon (Hynes), Marin says the governors race in Illinois “may boil down to which guy you’d rather have a beer with.”

Right now, I’d like to have that beer with Pat Quinn.

As a fellow Domer, I probably should lean Dan Hynes, but I like Pat Quinn’s down-to-earth style. While I probably shouldn’t characterize people by the schools they attended, Hynes is also a product of the aloof St. Ignatius Prep School.

Here’s Carol:

A longtime politico of the Democratic-Irish-Catholic persuasion, who hates to see his/her name in the newspaper, explained the race to me this way: “It’s been very personal and getting worse. Hynes has worked hard and is smart and capable but not a great campaigner. And Pat Quinn is viewed as the outsider . . . but ended up in the right place at the right time. . . . Right now I do my best to stay out of it. We have long Hynes connections, but I like Pat Quinn. He connects to people, he’s honest.”

The pol added: “At a White Sox game, he sits in the upper deck, not in a skybox.”

Quinn (Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown) and Hynes (magna cum laude from Notre Dame) are among this state’s brainiest politicians. And this contest should be decided based on who has the best, smartest policies to pull Illinois out of the worst financial crisis, perhaps, in its history.

I hope these guys campaign on what they want to do as governor. I don’t want to watch an endless stream of commercials attacking or responding to frivolous political attacks. Right now, I’m just not sure how these pols differ ideologically. They both seem very intelligent and honest. I just feel more comfortable with Pat Quinn right now.

Let the games begin.